There are some books that are just a match made in heaven for yours truly. I call this "book besherte." My book besherte moment happened when I was checking BookTrib for the latest giveaways and saw We Hope You Like This Song. It sounded interesting, as I'm a sucker for best friend stories. And it had me at "mix tapes." So I contacted the author, Bree Housley, to see about featuring her at Chick Lit Central. I had a feeling this memoir of a friendship that survives death would interest our readers, as well. And I couldn't wait to get my hands on it because after interviewing Bree, I knew it would resonate with me on many levels. After all, we both grew up in the midwest. We both went to high school in the 90s. We both have best friends who have shaped our lives in ways we never thought possible. Only difference is, she doesn't get to tell her best friend this, as her best friend died eight years ago from preeclampsia complications. Definitely heartbreaking.
Instead of grieving and moping these past eight years, Bree decided to honor her best friend, Shelly Warner Bridgewater's legacy. Shelly was very outgoing and fearless. She was also generous, spirited, and just plain goofy. In January of 2009, four years after Shelly's passing and just before her deathiversary, Bree decided to make a resolution to live the way Shelly would. One resolution turned into 52 Shelly-themed activities ranging from trying new foods to taking pictures with strangers to singing at a Karaoke bar. Bree's sister, Courtnee, joined her in these resolutions. If they failed a particular resolution, they would have to donate $15 to preeclampsia research. Either way, they had nothing to lose.
Bree's tribute to Shelly rotates between stories about their adventures together, documentation of resolutions being carried out, and what Bree is doing in her daily life...which mostly involves wedding planning. While it could seem random and disjointed, everything is pieced together in a way that is easy to follow. She even has pictures and descriptions of all the major players in this story...her sister, husband and other girlfriends. It feels like we're having a conversation, even though it's one-sided. I chose to make it more interactive by e-mailing Bree as I was reading the book and telling her about how I could relate to certain things she mentioned. Some of the timing was interesting. (I had written a blog post for my personal blog about songs that brought back memories and shortly afterward, I came across a chapter where Bree talks about songs that carry meaning for her. I immediately sent her the blog post!) Another time, I was reading a part in the book that mentioned a Barenaked Ladies song and had a profound thought associated with it. I was telling someone about the impact the thought had on me and what do you know, the Barenaked Ladies song she mentioned came on my Spotify at the same time. (Admit it, you just got chills!) I felt like Shelly's presence was with me, even though I never met her. That's how the whole book feels though....
I may have never met Shelly, but Bree describes her so well that I feel like I grew up with her too. At times, she seemed too good to be true, or it felt like Bree had her on a pedestal. I was relieved to find out that they sometimes fought or got on each other's nerves. Bree is so honest and candid throughout the book. She'll admit her most embarrassing moments, which makes her that much more lovable! She reminds me of Jen Tucker in that way and I could even see them becoming friends. Bree was able to make me laugh and cry, sometimes in the same chapter! While Shelly sounds really special, if I had known both of them through my childhood and teen years, I would have probably flocked to Bree. She reminds me more of myself and I feel I can relate to her easily.
There's one chapter that is more difficult to read than the others. Bree delves into what happened leading to Shelly's death and talks about how she felt as everything was happening. I think I was over-prepared for that part because I didn't cry as much as I expected to. (The book was based on the fact that Shelly had passed away, so it wasn't something that could really sneak up on me and shake me to my core.) Instead, I contacted her to tell her about a similar situation I was in a long time ago, even though the end result wasn't the same and the magnitude of that relationship was different. However, there was a part that brought tears to my eyes and it had to do with a picture instead of any actual words. (When you see this picture, you'll know EXACTLY what I mean.) I still get misty-eyed thinking about it!
We Hope You Like This Song is inspiring, heartfelt, and has definitely affected the way I look at my own life and my friendships. I think it might have even helped me improve upon an important friendship. I've also tried out some of the resolutions in random ways. (For example, this week I sent thank you e-mails for something they had done for me in the past.) I was worried I wouldn't have anything to say in my review, as this book was so personal and I loved it so much that I was worried anything I said wouldn't do justice to explain how wonderful it is. However, I think I wrote my own memoir about it right here!
I HIGHLY recommend not only this book, but also to try out some of the resolutions for yourself. Live like Shelly for a day, a week, a month, or even a year! If you do them, comment on Bree's blog. She'd love to hear from you. She's currently doing a 12 resolution program, where she carries out one Shelly-themed activity per month.
To learn more about preeclampsia, visit Preeclampsia.org. This weekend, Bree is going back to her hometown (Walcott, IA) to participate in an annual trivia contest to benefit the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. Join me in wishing her luck! (Maybe all the questions will be about 90s music....she'll definitely win then!)
Thanks to Seal Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.
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